Former Cole Camp Graduate-- Fallen Hero Honored For Sacrifice

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Gold Star Mother, Rita Barnes, as well as veterans, family, former classmates and teachers gathered on Friday, September 28, to honor Staff Sergeant Brian P. Barnes, of Cole Camp, who lost his life in service to his country in 1994. The ceremony was held at the R1 School District, Cole Camp, where he graduated in 1985.
The ceremony was planned and sponsored by the Cole Camp Area Historical Society, with support by Dr. Tim Roling, R1 Superintendent, and Brandon Harding, High School Principal. The Colors Honor Guard of American Legion Post #305, American Legion Auxiliary Unit #305, and the Sons of the American Legion Squadron #305, Cole Camp, participated in the event. One of the Sons of the American Legion Squadron, Steve Dority, was a close friend of SSGT Barnes.
Dority escorted Rita Barnes forward to an easel to view the black granite plaque that was sponsored by the Historical Society. He helped her to uncover the plaque which was then read aloud as follows.
“Brian P. Barnes was a 1985 graduate of Cole Camp High School, attended DeVry University, and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in January 1987. He was a Master Gunner on an AC-130H Gunship. Brian was one of eight crew members killed during a night mission over the Indian Ocean in support of Operation Continue Hope near Malindi, Kenya. A 105MM (HE) round pierced the fuselage and struck the fuel tanks, resulting in an explosion and fire in-flight. The aircraft ditched into the Indian Ocean and sank. Staff Sergeant Barnes’ military awards include Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, AF Achievement w/OLC, AF Outstanding Unit Award, AF Good Conduct Medal w/OLC, National Defense Service Ribbon, AF Overseas Long Tour Ribbon, AF Longevity Service Award, NCO Professional Military Education Ribbon, and the Air Force Training Ribbon. Brian was the son of James and Rita Barnes, a Gold Star Mother, of Cole Camp, both of whom served in the U.S. Air Force.”
“The idea of some sort of additional memorial to a student of our school who was lost in military service has been tossed around for several years,” said Kathy Bruner, Secretary of the Cole Camp Area Historical Society, during a speech at the ceremony. “Former student body president, Harper Schroeder, took up the matter and campaigned for a plaque for Brian. The plaque will be permanently affixed to the wall near the window into the Middle School Office for all to see when they enter this school.”
After SSGT Barnes enlisted in the Air Force, he married his wife, Beverly, and had two sons, Brandon and Garrett. The sons have since graduated from college, married and have careers of their own. Rita Barnes just found out that she will be a great grandmother for the first time in February.
Rita Barnes, an Air Force veteran, is also a member of the American Legion Auxiliary in Cole Camp. She is one of many Gold Star Mothers who have lost sons or daughters in the service of the U.S. Armed Forces. American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. was originally formed in 1928 for mothers of those lost in World War I. It's name came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a banner called a service flag in the windows of their homes. The service flag had a star for each family member in the Armed Forces. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives in combat were represented by a gold star.